INT: Robert Downey Jr.
|Interview #1||Penelope Cruz|
|Interview #2||Robert Downey Jr.|
|Interview #3||Halle Berry|
Robert Downey Jr. is one of those Hollywood figures that appears to have the phrase troubled actor perpetually affixed to his name. With an impressive rap sheet involving drug possession, drunk driving, weapons possession and other wholesome activities, it seem as if hes spent more time in court in recent years than on movie sets. However, unlike most of his troubled colleagues in Tinseltown, Downey actually has talent, which means hell always be able to find work in between his stints in rehab (or prison).
Given his past, one doesnt have to be a professor at Oxford to notice the irony that his latest role, in the upcoming thriller GOTHIKA, is that of a psychiatrist. Its a perfect fit, and he shines opposite Halle Berry as guy whos just shady enough to make you wonder what side hes on. Carrying a pack of cigarettes and some Advil, Downey sat down with us at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk about Halle, acting and Kung Fu.
ROBERT DOWNEY JR.
You're all over the place right now.
I went to The Grove last night and [Singing Detective] was sold out. I was so happy, because Friday we went there and we were down at like Laemmle's whatever and there was like 16 people in the theater. I was like Oh, no. That's what I expected.
Did your time in real life institutions inform your characters in Gothika or Singing Detective?
That's an interesting thought. It's a little too late to utilize that. Yeah, of course it did.
How so? What do you know that we don't?
The truth. [Grabs his Advil] Advil: two coated tablets, they put it in a box and then in here and you get two freaking Advil. I'm sorry, what was the question?
What personal experiences did you draw on?
Well, all of them. I'm always drawing on stuff. Like tonight, when I go to my martial arts class and I attack the wooden dummy, I'll remember you asking me that question.
How long have you been doing martial arts?
A bunch of years, but I'm in a new phase of development because I've gone to a soft style that was invented by a female Buddhist monk in the 17th Century. Its called Wing Chun, and it's a lot more its subtle.
You've been through a lot, recovering from personal problems--
My problems have never been personal, sir, but thank you.
What is the best advice anyone gave you?
It happens because it needs to happen. Because so often-- oh, and Grandmaster Cheung (his martial arts instructor) gave me a great one a couple weeks ago. He said, "Men are much more clinging than women." Boy, that fucked me up for a week.
Why is your life better today for having experienced everything you have?
I always say, Three and a half billion years of DNA can't be wrong. If you understand simple physics, like be adaptive or things are often more associative than linear, that's like you can take all this terrible stuff or traumatic stuff or anguish and guilt and shame, and instead of putting it back of you and rolling forward like you're carrying that, I just kind of imagine okay, what if I'm just here right now and all that stuff is going to happen if I don't act as if I don't have to behave that way anymore?
Are the work problems all behind you?
It's all behind me and it's all in front of me. I mean, what am I going to do today?
What do you mean?
Well, or day by day. I don't know. Sometimes those bumper stickers make me mad. Don't throw those slogans at me, I swear to God, I'll punish you for it. And often those slogans are just the universe's way of saying it's kind of okay if you don't mind being such a miserable son of a bitch about it.
What does Gothika mean?
I think it's referring to an archetypal kind of tone. Titles, I just wonder. Who is it? There's always somebody, like when I did this movie with Marisa Tomei in Italy called ONLY YOU, I was like, "Okay, what did we do? Like you bought a bunch of '50s songs and you got the rights to the name and you want to make sure you spend them all before the hour's over?" Originally it was going to be called FAITH and I thought that was a great thing and the character's name was Faith and I thought Wow, that's cool. Well, cool's not what we're after.
The scene of overlapping dialogue with Halle in Gothika, was it improvised or scripted?
I don't think you can get better than having a loose idea of what the scene is. Like I remember TWO GIRLS AND A GUY, Toback basically was too busy at the OTB to fully write the scenes and we improvised and we were all in a good space and it was really kind of the best of both worlds. But then, sometimes there is a higher order and it goes back to if something is well written and you rehearse it to the point where it goes back to being spontaneous again, it's really cool. And it also depends if you've got a great actress, you can make things seem really natural, interacting with her or him.
How did you feel after breaking Halle's arm?
How did I feel? I felt like Oh, God. I felt like I'm so glad that I was sober when it happened or everything on earth would be my fault. You know what? It was just a really weird thing because things had been so tense on the set for days before. You don't have to injure yourself to be injured. I believe in some method acting, but I don't know that De Niro had to go sleep in a coffin when he did BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY. Have some aesthetic distance because things were getting really wild and I was really shaken up and I was nervous that someone was going to get hurt. And I'd been expressing that.
So when it happened, I felt two things: A) I was right, and B) what I couldn't have imagined was that it would've been at my hands that it happened, so I don't know how to explain it. It's so difficult to figure out why events occur. What is the impetus behind an event? Is it largely a psychic event? Is it something that happened because it needed to happen? I mean, you know when things when it really comes down to the wire, whether it's you or someone else in a situation, do you still hold your position that you believe to be true, that you create your own reality? That even accidents are on some level agreed on?
And I say that, so when I get T-boned and almost fly off PCH and the guy goes, "I'm sorry, I don't have any insurance, goodbye." I go, Why? Why at some level did I invite that experience? And the truth is if I really want to dissect it, at that point in life I was doing some things that were not safe and it was kind of like a way of the universe saying, "Hey, slow down, watch out."
Was it hard coming back after Halle was out for a month?
Well, it was hard for her. This is all the difficulty was her physical recuperation. Of course, I'm always ready to accept guilt and blame and everything for anything that happens within 50 miles of me because whatever, that's just something I'm working on, but it was I knew she was going into CATWOMAN after and I was like Wow. And then I start rationalizing well, yeah, you know, maybe something really awful would've happened on that set if she was my whole thing was when I first started off, I had some really good theater arts teachers and stuff like that and they always said they always said to have aesthetic distance. If you have a fight scene, you're acting a fight scene. You're not out there really like throwing down because it will look good on the camera and keep things very real. I'm like, let's keep things very manageable and effective.
Were there script changes after you signed on?
After I signed on? Yeah, the script's always changing.
How did that affect your character?
It was reduced.
Are offers coming more easily now that you're not an insurance risk?
I just think there's an understanding. It's like if you want a French speaking actor who you think is right for your film to do your film, you understand that there will be certain communicative necessities or whatever. It's just like the deal goes like this, and then they take this and then they give us back a call. It's really just an equation like that and eventually it won't be, because I can think of two people offhand who it never got as public as it was with me and after a certain amount of time, the most stable people are the people who are committed and not unpredictable anymore.
How do you feel about people wanting to talk about your personal situation instead of the work?
Well, after this round and after Halloween, I'm not required to do it anymore according to my team and my feeling about it. So what I mean is, next year if someone still wants to talk about what happened three years ago, I'll just be like, you know what? I've covered this. I've totally papered the walls with information about this. At that point it would just be because things really aren't exciting enough to talk about anything but crazy stuff.
Do you have someone special you'll spend the holidays with?
I want to go hang out with Woody Harrelson at Christmastime in Maui.
Is that a safe environment for you?
He's actually a very, very organic and safe person to hang out with, yes.
What was the experience like working with Mel Gibson in Singing Detective?
Speaking of Advil, he'd thrown his back out, Mel had in the scenes and we were doing the scenes together in Singing Detective and I had just gotten out from under another tar and feather session doing the special effects makeup. So we were both kind of, I don't wanna say "miserable", we were both physically unsound at that point. And so it was about before he stopped smoking, it was about a lot of cigarettes, a lot of caffeine and a lot of Advil.